Aquaculture has a stable future…but not in BC

Activists working to ban aquaculture are in deep water

Submitted by Will Verboven Ahead of the Heard

A recent accident at a fish farm owned by the Canadian subsidiary of a global fish-farming corporation in the San Juan Islands of Washington state has reignited the old biased attitudes against aquaculture on the west coast. High tides and heavy seas demolished one of the farm’s sea pens and 160,000 Atlantic salmon escaped. Most were recaptured, unfortunately many were destroyed. However, some are expected to show up on the black market at roadside stalls. As expected, the usual cabal of anti-everything green lobbyists decried the incident as an example of why aquaculture needs to be banned. All the old debunked junk science was trotted out to again deceive gullible citizens and the media. Contrary to the wild delusions of green zealots, Atlantic salmon do not crossbreed with local west coast varieties and no evidence has been found that they go up streams to reproduce. Atlantic salmon are raised in enclosed facilities and are essentially homeless. I expect most escaped fish will become food for seals and orcas – and that’s a good thing, right?

Green lobby businesses and their client native groups are again demanding that fish farming be banned in BC. As with pipeline protests, it’s the First Nations folks that don’t have licensing agreements with fish farming companies that do most of the protesting. Well, maybe they have a point; the new BC NDP government should buy out the existing fish and shellfish farms in BC and remove them completely from their province and their economy. I suspect in their hearts that’s what NDP ideologues really want. Sure, it would mean a loss of millions of dollars to some First Nations, and thousands of jobs would be lost in remote settlements, along with the associated taxes to BC. But it would be a small price to pay to earn the BC government some politically correct environmental accolades. No doubt they would get personal thanks from green godfather Saint David Suzuki. The BC NDP government’s coalition partner, the Green Party, would be ecstatic with such a progressive move. I say just do it.

Such a bold move by BC wouldn’t reduce the supply of farmed salmon or any other fish species – they would just be shipped in from other parts of Canada, Chile, Scotland and Norway. That’s a good thing because farmed fish products are the only way the average consumer can afford high quality seafood. The anti-fish farm folks neglect to mention that without farmed fish only very expensive wild seafood would be available, that only the elite rich could afford, which includes many green lobbyists.

There is another bright side to banning fish farming in BC – the industry could be moved to Atlantic Canada where aquaculture is wanted and appreciated. Fishing is deeply engrained in the culture of that region. They have a long economic history of dealing with many species of fish and shellfish along with processing and marketing on a global scale. Aquaculture already exists in the Maritimes and Newfoundland, but they face tougher climatic and geographic challenges than on the west coast. Still, you can be assured that provincial and local governments would welcome more investment in aquaculture and green lobby groups would find little support for their nefarious anti-fish farm ideology. Their reputation is forever tainted in Atlantic Canada for their treacherous and duplicitous efforts to destroy the sealing industry.

But what about aquaculture in Alberta? It’s a little-known fact that this industry also exists on the prairies, although it is mostly land-based, involving mainly tilapia and trout. In the past, there were also freshwater fisheries for pickerel, pike and other species. The problem with aquaculture in this province is the huge capital investment in facilities and technology required to create a commercial land-based operation – but efforts are being made. The University of Lethbridge has an aquaculture research department that encourages development of the industry. If the difficult economics could be overcome then perhaps salmon could also be raised. That reality is closer with the development and approval of a genetically modified salmon variety that grows to market weight in half the time of the existing farmed varieties. Fish food, including meat meal, is plentiful locally and would benefit local economic diversification. But as in BC, we have an NDP government and I suspect that they would balk at the idea of supporting commercial salmon fish farms using a GM variety. However, I suspect such an innovative aquaculture opportunity has not escaped the attention of the governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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